Developing talent

What happens when apprenticeships come to an end? Comms Business talks to channel companies about their experience of apprentices completing their study and gaining sufficient experience.

The good news is that every company we spoke to has found most apprentices go on to continue in their careers within the channel.

Kathleen Pai, chief people officer, N-able, said, “Successful candidates in the N-able apprenticeship programme can currently earn a degree through part-time study while gaining invaluable hands-on experience. Jude Scally, based in the N-able Edinburgh Collaboration Hub, was one of the first recruits to our programme and played an active role in projects four days out of the week for four years.

“He completed coding tasks with real-world applications while attending university once a week to work towards a Bachelor of Science degree in computer science. Jude is an asset to our culture of belonging here at N-able, and we are fortunate to have him.”

Scally discussed his experience in N-able’s apprenticeship programme. He said, “I really enjoyed my four-year apprenticeship with N-able—my university studies fed into what I was doing on a day-to-day basis in the Hub and vice-versa at University.

“I was always given plenty of time when needed during the workday to complete work for University, and everyone in the team helped me get up-to-speed with assigned projects, while also taking time out of their day to help me with my studies.

“It was so exciting to graduate and be hired straight into a role that I was already comfortable with and had built strong relationships in—it took away the unknown and fear of trying to find a job once you exit University, which can be daunting.

“Doing an apprenticeship is an opportunity to learn skills and gain real experience within a company. The programme has been a great experience, and I’d definitely recommend it for anyone looking to get into software engineering.”

Getting your foot in the door

Donna Bain, SVP, people and development, Westcon-Comstor, discussed her company's experience with running an apprenticeship programme.

She explained, “We’ve also found that a substantial number of apprentices often feel a strong sense of loyalty towards the business, choosing to stay with the company in a full-time position. In fact, since the start of our apprenticeship programme in the UK, 76 per cent of our apprentices have been permanently employed at Westcon-Comstor.”

One of those apprentices is Kai Barnes. Reflecting on his time as an apprentice at Westcon-Comstor, he said, “You’re constantly working on honing your skills and specialisations as the products and portfolio’s change – and because of that, you become a crucial asset to the business. But it all starts with getting your foot in the door.”

Bringing talent to the channel

Jola has also had good experiences with its apprenticeship programme. Rob Stevens, the company's operations director, explained the company “has been fortunate to retain most apprentices”.

He added, “A successful technical support apprentice went on to be employed by Jola as a network engineer, further developing their skills. One of our school leavers within our development team, successfully qualified at level 4 of the scheme. They are now the go-to person for all our current apprentices, assisting with project work.”

Likewise, Thea Tanner, commercial and propositions director, BT Wholesale, is positive about the ability of her company’s programme to bring people into the channel.

She said, “BT Wholesale’s apprenticeship scheme has experienced year-on-year growth in terms of the number of entrants admitted. It is encouraging to see so many young people joining the channel and I hope that this growth continues whilst giving chances to those who don’t want to follow the traditional career path of university.”

Apprentices in action

Giganet offers apprenticeship programmes that combine education and on-the-job training, with the company finding this approach helps it to develop a sustainable and resilient workforce.

In early 2022, Giganet partnered with Fareham College to open a dedicated training centre where it will develop the next generation of installation engineers. Apprentices will be equipped with extensive knowledge of full fibre infrastructure and the skills and behaviours necessary to push the industry forward.

Emma Robinson started as one of the company’s apprentice installation engineers in June 2022, with her apprenticeship set to finish towards the end of 2023. Robinson has enjoyed the hands-on nature of her apprenticeship and is excited about the future.

She said, “It’s an industry that is constantly changing which is exciting but a relentless learning curve. I have experience in mechanical engineering, so I’ve always had an interest in tech.

“During the day I could be out with a pickaxe digging up groundwork or carrying out demos for our lovely customers! Later, I could have a session with my industry tutor to learn more about the wider industry, mobile telecoms, full fibre, and the importance of top-level customer service.

“My goal is to be able to relay information back and talk in-depth about the telecoms industry.”

This is an extract from a feature that appeared in our February 2023 print issue. You can read the magazine in full here.

This week is National Apprenticeship Week, which brings together the apprenticeship community to celebrate everything that is amazing about apprenticeships. The theme for this year is 'Skills for Life'. You can find out more here.

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